Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)

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Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

Malloy and Pryor:  The Connecticut Charter School Debacle Expands

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Thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Connecticut’s charter school industry has been sucking up tens of millions of dollars in public funds that could have been going to help Connecticut’s real public schools.

Malloy’s unlimited commitment to charter schools runs so deep that when he brags that he has increased spending on “public schools” during his time in office, he actually has the hubris to include the millions he and his administration have handed out to the corporate education reform industry.

The former charter school operator formerly known as “Dr. Michael Sharpe,” who turns out not to have even finished his academic training, but did serve about five years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, is but the tip of a much larger iceberg of lies, deceit and corruption that surround the charter school industry in Connecticut and across the nation.

And you can almost see and hear Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor looking into the TV cameras and saying – “who me?…If we had only known that they were crooks and liars we’d never have given these people no-bid contracts to run public schools or permission to open lucrative new charter schools on top of the $53 million we’ve already given them.”

The only problem is that if Malloy and Pryor did not know the truth about Jumoke/FUSE then it is an even greater indictment of their incompetence and inability to manage the State of Connecticut on behalf of our citizens.

Here is the latest on the Jumoke/FUSE scandal.

Check reveals another criminal record at FUSE (Hartford Courant)

A community outreach coordinator for a Bridgeport school run by FUSE, the embattled charter school group, has a criminal conviction background that includes drug offenses and a listing on the Texas sex offender registry.

The record of Mack Allen, 49, of Bridgeport, surfaced in a confidential background check that FUSE had a law firm perform in January after he had begun working. But the organization didn’t inform Bridgeport schools Supt. Frances Rabinowitz about it until Tuesday night, after she requested background information on several FUSE employees as part of an audit.

[…]

Allen, a member of the city of Bridgeport’s ethics commission, told The Courant Wednesday that he fully disclosed his criminal past to Sharpe and others at FUSE when they hired him for the job that he said paid him less than $30,000 this past year.

[…]

“I don’t hide my past. What I’ve done, I’ve done,” he said, adding that he had been a gang member heavily involved in the cocaine trade, and had served several prison stretches totaling more than nine years, the last one ending in Texas in 2001.

But Allen said he never should have been in the Texas sex offender registry because it resulted from a conviction as a juvenile in California, in the 1970s, of a charge he described as “accessory to attempted rape,” and that he never tried to sexually assault anyone.

[…]

FUSE’s agreement with the state for its operation of Dunbar includes a provision that the Jumoke charter organization “agrees that no employee of Jumoke who will work at Dunbar or who will work directly with Dunbar students is listed on any Sex Offender Registry.”

It was not clear what led FUSE to have the background check done on Allen after the start of the 2013-14 school year. Lawyer Andrew R. Crumbie, whose Hartford firm performed the check and submitted it Jan. 6, declined comment Wednesday.

Check reveals another criminal record at FUSE  (CT Post)

A Dunbar School aide who is listed as a sex offender in Texas — and who has felony drug convictions — is the latest Family Urban Schools of Excellence employee found to have a criminal record.

Mack Henry Allen, 49, who in addition to working at Dunbar this year was appointed in March to the city’s Ethics Commission, has first-degree drug convictions in Houston and is listed as a low-level offender on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.

“It’s a scathing background,” Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz said Wednesday. “Just scathing. I have major difficulty with it.”

The news is the latest in a series of revelations that has prompted a local and state investigation of FUSE, a private group entrusted by the state Department of Education to run charter schools and two public schools in Bridgeport that are part of the state’s Commissioner’s Network. One of the schools is Dunbar.

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CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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The Connecticut Post has published a powerful editorial about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school debacle and the Malloy Administration’s failure to properly oversee the growing charter school industry in Connecticut.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s minions of charter school allies are diverting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that have been allowed to open up charter schools or have been given no-bid contracts to run local public schools in Connecticut’s poorest communities.

The editorial lays out the stark facts about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and its contract to run the Bridgeport neighborhood school known as Dunbar.

The CT Post doesn’t even get to the fact that Commissioner Pryor, Pryor’s Division Director in charge of turnaround schools, and their new Bureau Chief in the turnaround schools division all worked for Achievement First, Inc., Connecticut’s largest charter school management company, before getting their state jobs.

Together, Pryor and his two top charter school lieutenants are earning about $500,000 in salary and benefits, courtesy of Connecticut’s taxpayers.  And while we pay, they are spending their time undermining Connecticut’s public school system.

The Connecticut Post editorial does observe,

It is almost beyond belief that the state Department of Education, its hand finally forced, is just now ordering all charter schools and charter school management firms in Connecticut to conduct background checks on the people being entrusted with the care of children.

The department acted only after Michael P. Sharpe, director of a company the state picked to turn around Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, was discovered to have convictions for forgery and embezzlement, and no doctoral degree, as claimed.

So, in this case at least, with the horse long out of the barn, the department announced with a flourish that it will sic a special investigator on FUSE — Family Urban – and Jumoke Academy, a Hartford charter school that FUSE also runs.

The state department also said it will make charter schools and their management companies to adhere to anti-nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies established for public school districts.

Well, how about that?

“Today’s actions may not be the limit of what we undertake,” intoned Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.

What’s next? Triple secret double-dog probation?

[…]

FUSE, for one thing, received $435,000 from the state in so-called Commissioner’s Network money, money designed to help turn around particularly low-functioning schools in the state.

You can read the complete editorial at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-long-overdue-step-on-charters-5593806.php

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The battle against the corporate education reform industry takes center stage

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Charter School Scandal Continues to Rock Malloy Administration…

However, rather than conduct a truly independent investigation into the fall of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education decided to hire a lawyer to conduct an “investigation.”

Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner added that his agency’s lawyers would be “extremely involved” in the investigation… this despite the fact that Pryor and his leadership team should be among those being investigated.

While the State Board of Education put FUSE, the parent company of Jumoke Academy on “probation,” they spent much of the meeting lavishing praise on Jumoke Academy.

But the two entities are so intertwined that the State Board of Education’s action deserves nothing but ridicule.

The fact is that the deal to hand Hartford’s Milner Elementary School over to Jumoke was made in March 2012.  The State Board of Education voted to give Milner to Jumoke at their meeting in August 2012, but FUSE, the parent company that signed the contract to run Milner, wasn’t even formed until October 2012 —– more than six months AFTER Pryor and his team had decided to hand over millions of state taxpayer dollars to run Milner.

To investigate FUSE and not Jumoke Academy  is nothing more than a blatant effort to sweep the problem under the rug.

But regardless of the State Board of Education’s action, the battle against charter schools and the corporate education reform industry is finally being brought to light.

As the CT Mirror explains in their leading news story this morning,

The inquiry comes as charter schools, once celebrated as laboratories of urban educational achievement and innovation, increasingly face a backlash from teachers’ unions and political figures ranging from the mayor of New York City to a third-party candidate for governor of Connecticut.

See CT Mirror: Scandal called ‘important moment’ in charter movement

The CT Mirror adds,

Anger over charter schools and the private non-profit companies that run them is helping fuel the third-party gubernatorial campaign of Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic legislator.”

To Pelto, the exposure of Sharpe’s record by The Hartford Courant is evidence of the shortcomings of a state education bureaucracy overly sympathetic of charter schools.

“I think it’s evidence there is no oversight, no meaningful oversight,” Pelto said.

On the same issue, CT Newsjunkie, has an article entitled, State Board of Education Launches Investigation, Requires Background Checks for Charters.  CT Newwjunkie reports,

Critics of charter schools who attended Monday’s meeting, including gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto, say this is just proof that the charter model doesn’t work.

Pelto said these issues need to be investigated by an outside investigator because the allegations of inappropriate activities go all the way up into the commissioner’s office.

He said the board should have put the charter management group and its flagship charter school, Jumoke Academy, on probation.

And the Hartford Courant, the newspaper that produced the investigative news stories that brought down the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain has a story entitled, State Board Approves Probe Of Charter School CompanyThe Courant’s story includes my assessment of the State Department of Education’s action, in which I say,

It’s not just the fox dialing 911 when the chickens have disappeared – it’s the fox with the chicken feathers hanging out of their mouth dialing 911,” said Pelto, who suggested the state auditors should conduct the probe.

You can read much more about the is developing story by clicking on the titles of each of the articles

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News Flash:  Malloy/Pryor hand another top job to an Achievement First Inc. staffer

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The Malloy administration has given the one-hundred thousand-dollar-a-year-plus job of “Bureau Chief for District and School Transformation” to William (Billy) Johnson, a former employee of Achievement First Inc.

Of course, Achievement First, Inc. being the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner.   The company now operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and has been the largest beneficiary of Malloy’s effort to shovel funds to the charter school industry.

The new “Bureau Chief” will report to Morgan Barth, the State Department of Education’s ‘Division Director.”  Before getting his lucrative management job in the Malloy administration, Barth also worked for Achievement First, Inc.

And Barth reports to Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Not only did Pryor play a key role in the creation of Achievement First, Inc., but he served on its Board of Directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s “education reform” point-person.

The timing of this hand-out to another Achievement First Inc. employee is particularly noteworthy since it takes place at the very moment that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are circling the wagons in an attempt to deny any responsibility for the Jumoke Academy/FUSE Charter School Management Company debacle of the past few weeks.

Their claim that they didn’t know anything about the problems associated with Jumoke Academy/FUSE certainly lacks credibility since it was Pryor, Morgan Barth and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson, who worked directly with Jumoke Academy/FUSE to get them their two no-bid contracts – one to run the Milner School in Hartford and one to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  In addition, it was the same cast of characters who successfully got Jumoke Academy/FUSE their new charter school in New Haven.

But as we’ve seen throughout Malloy’s tenure in office, the charter school industry is a priority.

And now another senior position is being given to someone affiliated with Achievement First, Inc. and charter schools.

Billy Johnson worked for Achievement First, Inc. from 2004 to June 2009 and returned to Achievement two years ago to become a consultant for Achievement First’s “AF Residency Program for School Leadership in July 2012.

Johnson has also worked for the Domus Academy, another charter school company and for the Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut.

And what is Johnson’s most recent academic achievement? A 2014 graduate of the UConn’s infamous 093-CT Superintendent Executive Leadership Certificate Program, the very program that Pryor and the State Department of Education sidestepped in granting Paul Vallas his “certification” to run Bridgeport’s schools.

Although Johnson’s salary has not been released yet, the position was advertised for $102,546 – $131,539 per year plus benefits.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

“Disruptive innovation’ policies hurting state’s children” (By Wendy Lecker)

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The Corporate Education Reform Industry calls it “Disruptive Innovation.”

Translated into English, it describes the process by which an “education reformer” claims that they are improving the quality of education for our children by blowing up and undermining our public schools, turning them over to private companies to run, allowing a bunch of non-educators and private companies to divert scarce public funds into their pockets, all the time hoping that no one will notice.

Their fallback position is to simply walk away if things go bad, laughing all the way to the bank as teachers, parents, and local property taxpayers try to put their schools back together.

Here in Connecticut, the poster children for this outrageous scheme include Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s State Board of Education and a variety of individuals and private companies including Jumoke Academy/FUSE and its disgraced CEO, Michael Sharpe.

In her latest column for the Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group, public education advocate Wendy Lecker shines the light on how the Malloy administration is using our children as lab rats to further then “Disruptive Innovation” approach to public education in Connecticut.

Wendy Lecker writes,

Education reformers love the notion of “disruptive innovation.” Borrowed from the business world, the theory contends that rather than make incremental progress, industries must be shaken up. This idea has been embraced by the Obama and Malloy administrations, pushing “turnaounds” in which the administration and most or all of the staff of a school with low test scores is replaced — often by a charter school management company.

Disruptive innovation was popularized by Clayton Christensen, who promoted its spread to other sectors, such as education. Christensen’s theory was built on handpicked case studies he claimed proved that disruptors were successful and existing companies who could not adapt failed. In her recent Yorker critique, historian Jill Lepore observes that the emphasis on innovation marks a fundamental shift in focus. “Replacing `progress’ with `innovation’ skirts the question of whether a novelty is an improvement.”

Upon investigating Christensen’s cases, Lepore found that his claim was untrue. The companies that focused on sustained improvements fared better and most of the time, disruptors disappeared. In the long run, incremental progress prevailed.

However, as Lepore also notes, a quick buck — not long-term consequences — is the focus of disruptive innovation. As one advocate advised, “if you start a business and it succeeds, sell it and take the cash. Don’t look back.”

Lepore writes that this discredited theory is misapplied to sectors such as public education because public education has different values and goals than those of business.

Indeed, this country’s highest court deemed education the “most important state and local function;” and the loss of even a week of learning is a significant deprivation. Under our state constitution, Connecticut has a 13-year obligation to provide every child with an education that enables her to be a productive and responsible citizen and proceed to higher education.

However, educational reformers’ goals diverge from their duties to our children. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from charter school promoters. The result is his embrace of “disruptive innovation” in education.

Disruption is bad for schools and for children — especially for vulnerable children, who experience daily turbulence in their lives outside school. Teacher and administrator turnover hurts student achievement, as does student mobility. The turnaround strategy has proven unsuccessful.

Recent shocking developments involving Jumoke/FUSE charter school illustrate the harm caused by Malloy’s “disruptive innovation.”

Hartford’s Milner elementary school was the first target of charter chain founder and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s commissioner’s network. The commissioner’s network to “turnaround” struggling schools was a key feature of Malloy’s 2012 education reform legislation.

Milner suffered from a chronic shortage in staff serving its large population of English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Its building required major repairs. The school also already underwent an unsuccessful redesign in 2008. Rather than provide Milner with necessary additional resources, Pryor announced a takeover of the school by Jumoke — a charter school in Hartford with no ELL students and few students with disabilities.

Only after the takeover did Milner receive additional funding, including an annual $345,000 management fee to Jumoke. Curiously, after the takeover, roughly 20 percent of the students disappeared from the school.

Michael Sharpe promised that his “Jumoke model” would help Milner. However, after two years under Jumoke management, Milner’s scores have dropped precipitously and are now “rock bottom.” Hartford accuses Jumoke of nepotism, and of hiring an ex-convict. Sharpe admitted that there was no plan for Milner — they were “winging it.”

As part of the commissioner’s network, Milner/Jumoke was supposed to be subject to heightened accountability by Pryor. Yet, despite this ongoing failure, since 2012, Pryor and the State awarded Jumoke another commissioner’s network school, Bridgeport’s Dunbar elementary, and another charter school in New Haven.

This week, it was revealed that Sharpe falsified his academic credentials. Even worse, he spent several years in federal prison for embezzling public funds and conspiracy to commit fraud, and has two forgery convictions.

Sharpe has been paid about $53 million in taxpayer dollars in the past few years. It is unconscionable that neither Pryor nor Malloy bothered to discover Sharpe’s lies or his felony convictions.

The damage done to Milner’s children cannot be undone. They have lost years of learning. They are forced to build new relationships with staff that has been replaced twice in six years. Instead of necessary resources, the state has given these families only empty promises.

Unlike business disruptors, Malloy’s failed education ventures will not disappear. His callous “disruptive” education policies cause lasting damage to Connecticut’s children and their communities.

You can read wendy Lecker’s complete column at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Lecker-Disruptive-innovation-policies-hurting-5585477.php

Pelto to Malloy – Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut

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Pelto to Malloy: Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut:

Jonathan Pelto, the Education and Democracy Party’s candidate for governor called on Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to fire Stefan Pryor, his Commissioner of Education and remove his political appointee, Andrea Comer from the State Board of Education.

Pryor, who co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company has masterminded Malloy’s unprecedented effort to expand charter schools in Connecticut, including the schools Pryor helped to create.

Andrea Comer, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company is one of Malloy’s appointees to the State Board of Education.  During her tenure, Jumoke Academy/Fuse has received a series of no-bid contracts to run local elementary schools in Hartford and Bridgeport as well as being selected as the manager of a new charter school in New Haven.

“In recent years, Connecticut taxpayers have paid Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company, and their disgraced CEO Michael Sharpe, in excess of $53 million dollars. Over the past week we’ve learned that not only is Jumoke Academy/FUSE’s CEO a convicted felon, having served about 5 years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, but he also falsified his resume by claiming that he had a doctorate when he didn’t even complete his graduate degree,” Pelto said. “Stefan Pryor’s relationship with charter school companies and State Board of Education member Andrea Comer’s direct financial connection with Jumoke Acadmey/Fuse invalidate their ability to protect the interests of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, school districts and taxpayers.”

“It is bad enough that more than $50 million in scarce public funds have been turned over to Jumoke Academy/Fuse, but unless immediate action is taken to reverse the Malloy administration’s bad policy decisions, the series of no-bid contracts and State Board of Education votes will mean literally hundreds of millions more will be given to this charter school chain,” Pelto concluded.

Pelto has repeatedly raised concerns about Stefan Pryor’s conflict of interest on his blog, Wait, What? as far back as January 11, 2012 and he used his blog to focus on Andrea Comer’s conflict of interest as soon as Malloy had nominated Comer in the winter of 2013.

In February of this year Pelto penned a blog entitled, Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor must go.

As evidence as to why Pryor must resign or be removed, Pelto wrote,

Pryor’s management of the Connecticut Department of Education has become the personification of what happens when arrogance, elitism and corporate-driven interests replace a commitment to honesty, transparency and doing what is right for the people public officials have a sworn duty to serve.

From the moment Stefan Pryor arrived in Connecticut, the Malloy administration’s education policy has been consistently designed to destroy local control, belittle and demean teachers, reduce parental involvement, undermine our public schools and divert scarce public resources to out-of-state consultants and carpetbagging staff. Pryor’s tenure has been dedicated to a preoccupation with turning our schools into little more than standardized testing factories.

Pryor began his tenure by using no-bid contacts to pass out millions of dollars in public funds to out-of-state companies for the purpose of developing Malloy’s “education reform” initiative and transforming the State Department of Education into a gravy train for the corporate education reform industry.

Pryor helped Malloy develop and push through the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation.

Malloy and Pryor’s legislation and policies were founded upon the inappropriate use of the Common Core, the mandated introduction of a huge and faulty Common Core standardized testing scheme, an inaccurate and unfair teacher evaluation program and a “Commissioner’s Network” and system of “Turnaround Schools” that are reducing parental involvement, destroying local control and are primarily designed to privatize public schools.

In example, after example, after example, Stefan Pryor and his “team” have consistently put their political agenda ahead of what was best for the students, parents, teachers and public schools of our state.

Pryor has dedicated himself to hiring his personal friends, giving out millions of dollars in contracts to out-of-state, politically-connected companies, putting his “Turnaround Office” in the hands of Morgan Barth, a person who illegally taught and worked for Pryor’s charter school management company (Achievement First, Inc.) for six years and relentlessly and consistently doing the wrong thing for Connecticut’s system of public education.

The quintessential example of Pryor’s dismal and idiotic approach to governing was his decision to let go or transfer ten State Department of Education, Connecticut-based experts on improving schools and replacing them with an unending series of inexperienced, out-of-state consultants who have no meaningful experience or understanding of how to close the achievement gap in our largest and poorest school districts.

[Full February 6 2014 Wait, What? post can be found here: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/02/06/connecticut-commissioner-education-stefan-pryor-must-go/]

According to Pelto, the latest scandal involving Michael Sharpe and Jumoke Academy/Fuse only reinforces the fact that it is well past the time when Governor Malloy should remove Pryor and Comer from their policymaking roles within the Malloy administration.

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Will Bridgeport learn from the Michael Sharpe and Jumoke/FUSE disaster?

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As more and more facts come out about Michael Sharpe, the CEO of the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School Management company, parents, public school advocates and the taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut are turning their attention to the decision by Paul Vallas and former Bridgeport Board of Education, Chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. to hand over Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, its students, staff, parents and millions of dollars in public funds to the disgraced charter school fraud.

In the fall of 2012, thanks to the intervention of the Malloy administration, Michael Sharpe and the Jumoke/FUSE company won a no-bid contract to run the Milner School in Hartford.  The following year, Jumoke/FUSE won a no-bid contract to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport and this year, Sharpe and his company received permission to open a new charter school in New Haven.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education are all claiming that they didn’t know that Dr. Michael Sharpe wasn’t a “Dr.” or that he served approximately five years in prison for embezzlement and tax fraud when he lived in California.

In Bridgeport, the Dunbar School was handed over to Sharpe through a backroom deal that included education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr., the Malloy and Finch ally who was then serving as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education when the lucrative contract was given to Sharpe.

Just last week the Hartford Board of Education announced they were severing their relationship with Sharpe and Jumoke/Fuse due to fact that Jumoke/FUSE was failing to properly educate the children of the Milner School as required under their Memorandum of Understanding.

Then, thanks to the outstanding investigative reporting of the Hartford Courant, we’ve learned that Sharpe is a fraud having faked his resume and served a lengthy prison sentence for embezzlement and tax evasion.

With the Bridgeport Board of Education meeting tonight, the eyes of the state are turning to Bridgeport to see whether they will stick with the backroom political deal or do what is right for the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut.

Although the details remain murky, one thing is clear – the Dunbar School Deal would not have taken place without the assistance of Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales, Jr.

As readers know, Kenneth Moales is already an extremely controversial figure.  The man who served as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer has also been one of the most pivotal supporters of Governor Malloy in Bridgeport, the city that “gave” Malloy the margin he needed to beat Tom Foley by 6,200 votes in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Unable or unwilling to follow the law, Moales and his family have been running three daycare centers that illegally overcharged taxpayers and continue to put children in classrooms that do not meet the most basic requirements when it comes to having a permanent certificate of occupancy.

Wait, What? readers will recall that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. received a temporary certificate of occupancy on July 23, 2013, shortly after the CT Post reported his church, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, had been operating illegally as early as 2011.

On July 23, 2013, the Chief Building Official emailed Andrew Nunn, Mayor Finch’s Chief Administrative Officer, stating “All outstanding items have been resolved and the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy has been issued effective today.”  Andrew Nunn responded by writing “Thank you. Please work on outstanding issues and a timetable for a full CO and report back to me.”  Those cc’d on the email include Mayor Finch’s Chief of Staff, Deputy Administrative Officer, Director of Economic Development, City Attorney, Fire Chief, Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director and the Chief Fire Marshall.

But a year later, Moales still hasn’t resolved “those outstanding issues” and doesn’t have a permanent certificate of occupancy, although he continues to collect on what is nearly a $1 million-a- year daycare grant from the Malloy administration.

Although Moales’ isn’t meeting his legal requirements, neither the Malloy administration nor the City of Bridgeport have stepped in to close down Moales’ daycare operation….even though it is inconceivable that any other daycare provider in the state would be allowed to stay open without a permanent certificate of occupancy.

What makes the Moales situation particularly relevant is that despite being Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Moales never briefed his fellow board members on the controversy engulfing his daycare operation – an operation that is almost exclusively paid for with state funds that go through the Bridgeport Board of Education.

And while Moales was able to fly under the State Department of Education’s rules on daycare programs, he was helping Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s friend, Paul Vallas, give a multi-million dollar contract to Jumoke/FUSE’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, to run the Dunbar School.  Sharpe got the contract despite the fact that he and his company had no experience running a school outside of Hartford and was already running into problems with the Milner School in Hartford.

The action the Bridgeport Board of Education takes tonight will speak volumes about just how much power the Malloy administration has to divert scarce public resources to favored private companies or whether those days are coming to an end.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Charter School champion, “OxyContin producer” gives Malloy operation over $200,000  

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This month Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy will be getting a check for $6.2 million in public funds through the Connecticut Public Financing Program to pay for part of his campaign for governor.

But Malloy’s fundraising operation goes far beyond that money.  Malloy and his political operatives are raising millions through various loopholes in Connecticut law.

Take for example, the following;

Jonathan Sackler helped Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, create Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company that owns and operates schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.

Jonathan Sackler created ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group that led the record breaking $6 million lobbying campaign to pass Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative in 2012.  The bill made Malloy the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”

Jonathan Sackler founded 50CAN, the ConnCAN knockoff, which is attempting to spread the charter school lobbying effort across the country.  Sackler is also a member of the board of directors of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a national hedge fund industry-funded organization that is promoting the corporate education reform industry’s activities.

Jonathan Sackler and his family also own a significant share of Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company made famous due to their product known as OxyContin.

In a stunning investigative report by the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender, we now learn that Sackler and his family have given $91,000 to Malloy’s political operation while Sackler’s company has given another $106,000.

In the article entitled, Democrats Reap $91,000 From Charter Schools Advocate And His Family, Jon Lender explains,

There may be no better illustration of state Democrats‘ massive fundraising efforts in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election year than the political donations of Jonathan Sackler and his extended family.

A total of $91,000 in donations has rolled into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers in 2013 and 2014 from four people: Sackler, a Greenwich businessman, investment executive and charter schools advocate; his wife; mother and father.

Lender adds,

Also, a privately held pharmaceutical company in Stamford with which Sackler family members have long been associated — Purdue Pharma — contributed $56,050 in 2013 and $50,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, a national group that spends its money to help elect Democratic governors across the country.

Lender lays out in stark detail the flow of money from the Sacklers to Governor Malloy’s political operation.  Donations that include,

•$55,000 to one of the two Connecticut Democratic Party’s accounts.

Jonathan Sackler and his wife, Mary Corson, each gave a maximum $10,000 donation to the Democratic Party’s state account in 2013 and already have given the same amount in 2014, for a total of $40,000 between them. Also, Sackler’s mother and father, Raymond and Beverly Sackler, have given $15,000 — $10,000 and $5,000, respectively — to that same party account this year.”

•$36,000 to the other Connecticut Democratic Party account

“Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson each have given $10,000 to that account in 2014, and each gave $8,000 in 2013.

As Wait, What? readers may recall Jonathan Sackler also hosted a fundraiser for a political action committee associated with Malloy the day that Malloy’s “education reform” bill became a public act.  That fundraising netted more than $40,000 making it the most successful of the 14 fundraisers the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC held with Malloy and Wyman.

Sackler’s fundraiser was a “who’s who” in the corporate education reform industry including many of the board members of Achievement First, Inc. and ConnCAN as well as representatives of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy.

You can find Jon Lender’s MUST READ article at:  http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-major-givers-0622-20140621,0,3261788.column

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

The downfall of another Charter School Management Company

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Michael Sharpe is the CEO of Jumoke Academy and the FUSE charter school management company.

Over the past twenty months, thanks to Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees to the State Board of Education, Sharpe and his charter management company have gone from having one small charter school in Hartford – that failed to take a single bilingual student in six years and has consistently failed to take its fair share of special educations students – to one of the fastest growing charter school companies in the greater New York region.

Over the course of a year, Jumoke/FUSE received two no-bid contracts via the State Department of Education to run public elementary schools in Connecticut (one in Hartford and one in Bridgeport) and Malloy’s State Board of Education recently received approval to open a new charter school in New Haven, Connecticut despite the fact that Connecticut’s magnet schools are unfunded by nearly $50 million.   Just this week the Hartford Board of Education moved to sever its relationship with Jumoke/FUSE and the charter school management company’s control of the Milner elementary school.

In addition, FUSE recently got a lucrative contract from the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD), the organization that Paul Vallas used to destroy the New Orleans public school system before turning his attention on Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The RSD has apparently given Michael Sharpe and his charter school management company control of up to four schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In the midst of this miraculous growth spurt, Governor Malloy appointed Jumoke/FUSE’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrea Comer, to the Connecticut State Board of Education.  The State Board of Education being the entity responsible for approving charter schools and the “turnaround” plans that handed Jumoke/FUSE control of the two public schools.

But the truth is finally coming out about Michael Sharpe and his charter school management company.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting in a breaking news story,

“In a New Year’s message last December, the CEO of the Jumoke Academy charter school shared his enthusiastic vision for 2014, signing the letter, “Yours Truly, Dr. Michael Sharpe.

[…]

But on Friday, after the Courant questioned his academic background, Sharpe acknowledged that he never earned a doctoral degree and for years has erroneously been described as a “doctor.”

But Sharpe has now admitted that his resume is “doctored” and that, in fact, he doesn’t have a doctorate.  Sharpe told the Hartford Courant, “I did not complete the work. People started calling me doctor while I was in school, and I have always told people, ‘Don’t do it,’ but it catches on and people just keep doing it.”

However, as the Hartford Courant noted, the Jumoke/FUSE website continues to say that, “Dr. Michael Sharpe” was a graduate of NYU (which is a lie).

This is the second major revelation about the charter school operator this week.

As the Courant goes on to explain in today’s story,

“Sharpe’s admission of the false credential comes days after state and city school officials said they were surprised to learn that Sharpe — whose charter group is heavily financed with state money — had a criminal history and was imprisoned decades ago in connection with a federal corruption case.

Sharpe, a Hartford native, had been living in Oakland, Calif., when he pleaded guilty in 1989 to charges of embezzling more than $100,000 and conspiring to defraud the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, or BART, where he had been the agency’s real estate manager. He served 2 1/2 years of a five-year sentence, and later returned to prison in the early 1990s for a probation violation.

A few years before that case, Sharpe pleaded guilty in 1985 to two counts of third-degree forgery. Sharpe was accused of falsifying documents used to get a $415,000 city of Hartford rehabilitation loan to redevelop an apartment building.”

Although Sharpe told the Hartford Courant that his criminal record “was the worst-kept secret in America,” spokespeople for Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education claimed that they did not know about the charter school operator’s criminal past.

Following this latest news about Sharpe’s fake academic credentials, the Malloy administration released a statement saying,

“There remain multiple questions that require responses and explanations from Michael Sharpe and the Jumoke Organization.  We expect to receive such explanations and will consider them in determining any appropriate next steps.”

Classic spin from the Malloy administration.  Having handed millions of dollars in public funds to someone who has a criminal record and falsified their resume, Malloy’s spin operation now says, “…We expect to receive such explanations and will consider them in determining any appropriate next steps.”

You can find the latest Hartford Courant story at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-michael-sharpe-degree-0621-20140620,0,5954399.story.

The earlier Courant story on Jumoke/FUSE’s Michael Sharpe is at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-michael-sharpe-20140618,0,4674982.story

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

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